Montezuma: A Bohemian Beach Town

Last Updated: June 16, 2020

Not long ago, Costa Rica was known for its bumpy dirt roads that led only the most determined explorers to pristine beaches and virgin jungle. While many destinations have been built up significantly since those days, Montezuma has maintained its off-the-beaten-path feel. We first visited this laid back beach town over ten years ago and have made several trips back since then. In this post, we’ll give you all the details you need to plan your visit, including recommendations for the best hotels, activities, and restaurants.

Montezuma, Costa Rica Destination Guide

About Montezuma

Montezuma is located on the very southern coast of the Nicoya Peninsula. This area of the country is more remote, making Montezuma a little difficult to get to and, therefore, not overly crowded. The people who make the trek are typically a mix of backpackers, young families, and couples looking for a romantic getaway.

The draws of Montezuma are its many quiet beaches, thick forest, and wildlife like monkeys, butterflies, and birds. One of the things that makes it unique is its almost bohemian feel. Though small, Montezuma is a vibrant community, made up of like-minded expats and locals. Adding to this, Montezuma has an impressive selection of restaurants serving food from all around the world (see our picks below). 

Montezuma, Costa Rica Destination Guide
The main drag in Montezuma

Getting There

Visitors have several options for getting to Montezuma.

Public Bus

If you’re on a budget, the public bus is the best choice. When we first visited as tourists, we took the direct bus from San Jose and really enjoyed it. Although it is a long trip (around 6 hours), it includes a scenic ride on a ferry.

Shuttle or Rental Car

Those wanting to save time should drive themselves or take a shuttle van

Tips for Driving to Montezuma

If you’re planning to drive, the roads are well paved until you reach the southern Nicoya Peninsula. This area of the country is infamously known for its rough roads, though they are slowly improving. If you’re coming from Liberia International Airport or another destination in Guanacaste, you will encounter a mixture of paved and gravel roads on the drive south along the eastern coast of the peninsula.

If you’re traveling from San Jose International Airport or the central Pacific coast, you can speed up the trip by taking a ferry from Puntarenas across the gulf and then continuing by car from Paquera. For more information about the ferry, read our post Taking the Puntarenas-Paquera Ferry.

The roads around Montezuma are best traveled with a 4×4 vehicle. Although this is an extra expense, getting stuck on a steep incline because of loose gravel or mud is no fun. To help with the cost, check out our rental car discount.

Activities

Montezuma’s jungle-backed coastline has a lot to offer for activities. While you could spend days staring out at the crashing waves or looking overhead for monkeys, there’s plenty to do if you want to be active. 

Beaches

Just north of town is Montezuma’s most popular beach, Playa Montezuma. Here, you will see people sunbathing on the sand, camping under the palms, or taking a swim in the choppy water.

If you are up for a little adventure, continue walking north to explore more beaches and secluded coves. About 15-20 minutes away is a spot marked with dozens of makeshift rock sculptures called cairns and also a small waterfall. If you keep going (bring some water and snacks), you’ll follow a trail on and off the beach to Playa Grande, about 45 minutes away. Playa Grande is a long, beautiful beach and one of the best in the area for surfing. The walk out to Playa Grande is backed by really nice jungle, so keep an eye out for animals and birds. 

Montezuma, Costa Rica Destination Guide
Playa Montezuma

Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve

For more serious hiking, head to Reserva Natural Absoluta Cabo Blanco. This was Costa Rica’s first national reserve and its creation helped to shape the country’s conservation efforts. Besides being an important part of history, there is abundant wildlife to see, including monkeys and birds. At the end of the trail, you’ll also find a remote beach where you can take a dip to cool off after the long hike. See our post Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve for more info.

Montezuma Waterfalls

Probably the most popular activity in Montezuma are the waterfalls just south of town. The Montezuma Waterfalls are a set of three cascades that have something for everyone. While some just relax or picnic at the largest waterfall (almost 80 feet/24 meters tall), more adventurous types jump and swim at the other two.

The falls can be visited in two different ways. One includes a cool hanging bridge and the other goes up the riverbed. We did both on a recent visit and wrote about it in our post Montezuma Waterfalls: Best Ways to Access.

Montezuma, Costa Rica Destination Guide
View from the top of the middle waterfall

Snorkeling at Tortuga Island

A popular tour from Montezuma is a visit to nearby Isla Tortuga (Tortuga Island). This small island is about one hour away by boat and has volcanic rock structures that create favorable snorkeling conditions. There’s also a white sand beach that most operators take you to for a BBQ lunch. The ride out to the island is a tour in itself as you take in the beautiful coastline. Sometimes dolphins, turtles, or other marine life are spotted from the boat too.

Isla de Cabuya

This tiny island sits right offshore in the small fishing village of Cabuya, just south of Montezuma. It’s so close to land that you can even walk to it at low tide! Isla de Cabuya is best known for having a cemetery, and a walk through the gravesites is a unique and spiritual experience. The entrance is marked by a whitewashed archway and throughout the island you will see rows of agave plants and seashells adorning the graves.

Be sure to check the tide chart before heading out and don’t get stuck when the water level rises as the island is rumored to be haunted.

Montezuma, Costa Rica Destination Guide
View of Cabuya Island from shore at low tide. You walk out from the area to the right.

Proyecto Montezuma

If you’re interested in taking Spanish classes, becoming TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) certified, or even learning to surf, check out Proyecto Montezuma. We met with one of the founders of this great non-profit on one of our visits and learned so much about the organization’s efforts. Their main goal is to teach English to locals in the area, especially elementary school children so that they are able to get good jobs in the future. By taking one of their language or surfing classes on your visit to Montezuma, you’re helping to support their community efforts. Visit their website for more details. 

Restaurant Recommendations

Clandestina

If six different in house craft brews doesn’t lure you up the steep hill to Clandestina, maybe the Latin-flare tapas menu will. This restaurant at the Mariposario Montezuma Gardens has an intimate feel that is great for dinner. Not only that, but the small plates are innovative and flavorful. A few of our favorites were the mango snapper ceviche, street tacos, and pork carnitas with plantain tostones. They have a lot of vegetarian, gluten free, and dairy-free options. You can also just stop in at the bar for a beer. 

Montezuma, Costa Rica Destination Guide
Mango Snapper Ceviche at Clandestina

Puggo’s

The diverse menu at Puggo’s has something for everyone, from barbequed meats, to sushi, soups, and many Middle Eastern favorites like moussaka, falafel, and tandoori chicken. The BBQ ribs and sushi were very good, but our favorite was the hummus and crispy fried olives appetizer. The atmosphere at Puggo’s is also really nice. Now located in the Aves Hotel & Resort near Canopy Montezuma.

Montezuma, Costa Rica Destination Guide
Sushi at Puggo’s

Cocolores

This was one of our favorite restaurants on our first visit to Montezuma. The fact that it is still around is a reflection of the innovative and delicious dishes that they serve. Exotic curries, soups, seafood, kabobs, and high-quality steaks are among the variety of cuisine you’ll find at Cocolores. The atmosphere is great for couples with candlelit tables at the ocean’s edge, but fine for families too. Open for dinner only.

Chelo Pizzeria

When this place first opened, we couldn’t dig up any online reviews, but decided to give it a try anyway. We’re so glad we did. Formerly L’Angolo Allegro Pizzeria, Chelo’s Italian cuisine was really authentic. They have a large pizza and bruschetta menu as well as salads. We tried the bruschetta with locally smoked fish and would go back just for that. The pizza was also great. Open for lunch and dinner. 

Montezuma, Costa Rica Destination Guide
Pizza and bruschetta at Chelo

Ice Dream

Head to this coffee shop in the center of downtown for a quick pick-me-up or meal. Their expressos, lattes, cappuccinos, and iced coffees will give you a nice jolt. They also have casual food like baked goods, croissants, breakfast sandwiches, salads, and veggie rollups as well as omelets and gelato. With a good Wi-Fi signal and A/C, you could easily spend a couple of hours sipping some java or having a long lunch.

Hotel Recommendations

Budget Hotels

Montezuma Pacific Hotel

On a visit to Montezuma several years ago, we arrived in town without accommodations reserved. We were lucky to find a room at Montezuma Pacific Hotel. This is a simple, no frills hotel but the rooms have everything you need, and the owner, Carlos, is very friendly. The hotel is located on a quiet side road but only a minute walk to restaurants and shops. Double rooms, including A/C and hot water, around $50. Check Rates and Availability Here.

El Mariposario Montezuma Gardens

El Mariposario Montezuma Gardens has a lot to offer other than just the hotel. It houses the butterfly garden, which you can access for free as a hotel guest, and also Clandestina restaurant, which brews its own craft beer. Finding out that we could grab a delicious craft brew at any time of day was all we needed to know when picking our lodging on a recent visit to Montezuma. Rooms are simple but we found ours on the second floor to be quite comfortable. $50-90, includes a good breakfast. Check Rates and Availability Here

Montezuma, Costa Rica Destination Guide
Upstairs room at El Mariposario

Mid-Range Hotels

Amor de Mar

Amor de Mar is a nine room hotel just outside town and directly across from the river that leads to the Montezuma Waterfalls. They also have two villas that offer a kitchen, A/C, and a private porch. The property faces the ocean and has several comfortable areas for lounging and taking in the view. Rooms are rustic but nice and most have private verandas. $90-300, includes A/C. Check Rates and Availability Here

Montezuma, Costa Rica Destination Guide
Hotel Amor de Mar

Casitas Sollevante and Casa Frangipani

These are separate properties located on the same road, up a hill outside town. They both offer amazing ocean views and are good options if you’re looking for some privacy. Casa Frangipani ($100-200 double occupancy) has four contemporary villas set in the jungle. Casitas Sollevante is a slightly cheaper option ($125-200), and has a mix of standard rooms, villas, and houses. Both are best accessed with a rental car. Check Rates and Availability for Casa Frangipani and Casitas Sollevante.

High-End Hotels

Ylang Ylang

Ylang Ylang is the most luxurious option in Montezuma. Located on an isolated part of the beach north of town, this resort offers private bungalows for a romantic couple’s getaway as well as family suites and tent cabins. As we toured the beautifully landscaped grounds, we saw wildlife like monkeys, birds, and agouti. To make it even more appealing, the property overlooks a secluded beach. There is also an onsite pool and a restaurant that focuses on organic, healthy cuisine. $130-420 double occupancy, includes breakfast and dinner. Check Rates and Availability Here

Montezuma, Costa Rica Destination Guide
View from a common area at Ylang Ylang

If you’re looking for a beautiful place to relax and unwind, the beaches and jungle of Montezuma may be the perfect fit. Although it may seem out of the way, it is actually a great place to start your trip in Costa Rica. From Montezuma, you can easily head north to more laid back beach destinations like Samara or Nosara, or grab the ferry to busier beach towns like Jaco or Manuel Antonio.

Have a question about visiting Montezuma? Ask us below. 

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you book a hotel using one of the links, we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read our Privacy Policy for more information.

Last Updated: June 16, 2020

Check out the links below for more practical info for planning your trip to Costa Rica:

  • The Costa BallenaIf you’re looking for an off-the-beaten path feel, you might also like the Costa Ballena. This region on the southern Pacific coast has amazing wildlife, waterfalls, and surfing.
  • La Fortuna: What to Expect from Costa Rica’s Most Popular DestinationLa Fortuna can be easily combined with a visit to Montezuma. It’s a great area to experience volcanoes and get in any adventure activities you’d like to do.
  • Best Hotels Near SJO – We’ve stayed at and toured many different hotels near San Jose international airport. Read our recommendations for the best places to start or end your vacation.

Related Posts

Southern Pacific Coast Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s Southern Pacific Coast: Regional Snapshot
Pavones Costa Rica
Pavones: Surfing and Seclusion on the Southern Pacific
Central Valley Region Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s Central Valley: Regional Snapshot
Caribbean Coast Regional Snapshot
Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast: Regional Snapshot

111 Comments

  1. Hi Jenn and Matt,
    My husband and I are moving to Costa Rica next week. We are trying to pick a beach town for us to spend our first year. Do you have any recommendations? We prefer something less humid and perhaps a little more developed (aka things to do!). Thank you!

    1. Hi Jenna, There are lots of choices. For less humidity, look at Guanacaste. The Tamarindo area has a lot of things to do and there are smaller beach towns around it like Brasilito and Potrero that are still close. Playas del Coco north of Tamarindo is another option. If you haven’t already, you might want to take a look at our Life in Costa Rica posts- they have a lot of info on what it’s like to live here. Best of luck with the move!

  2. I’m interested in taking a 10-14 day trip to Costa Rica. We’d love to stay at Ylang Ylang in Montezuma but I’m trying to decide if it’s worth the trek for that amount of time. What do you think? If it’s worth it, would you do all the traveling in one shot or fly into San Jose and stay a day or two before continuing on to Montezuma?

    1. Hi Mychal, It is definitely worth doing Montezuma if you have 10-14 days. Before we lived here, we started one of our 2 week trips there and it worked out well. Some of the travel time is on the ferry, which is actually a really beautiful ride and breaks up the drive nicely.

      We would recommend staying overnight in San Jose so that you can get an early start and avoid driving on the Southern Nicoya’s rough roads after dark. Check out our SJO Hotel Guide for places to stay near the airport. We also have a post with ideas for things to do and places to stay right in downtown San Jose if you’re interested in spending a couple of nights there to explore the culture, museums, etc. Worth it if you’re interested in local culture.

    1. Hi Danielle, At least two nights since it’s a little hard to get to, but you could spend a week or more. It depends on the type of vacation you want. A lot of people spend several days to just relax on the beach, but you can do all the main attractions in only a few days if you want to see a lot of the country.

  3. Montezuma is hands down my wife’s (Tica) and my favorite destination (We live near San José). I’ve been going there for about 18 years; my wife for about 25. We have dear friends there. We’ve stayed several times at the Yliang Yliang and it is one of our favorite places anywhere; well worth the price. We stay at the Luz de Mono when we don’t feel so…. flush.
    You’ve overlooked a few things:
    The restaurant, Tierra y Fuego in Delicias (@ 2 Km. from Montezuma) is as good Italian food as anywhere in the world. Best pizza in Central America.
    Cabo Blanco was the inspiration for Jurrasic Park. The hike is tough but well worth it.
    😎 The coast in Montezuma does not run north/south, but east/west 8-).

    1. Hi Cecil, Always great to hear the thoughts of someone who knows a place so well. We visited Montezuma on one of our first trips to Costa Rica several years back and it amazes us how little it has changed. We’ll have to try that Italian restaurant next time we are there to get some good pizza. We love Cabo Blanco too and that’s why we included it here. Great hike with a wonderful reward when you reach that hidden beach. We always thought Isla del Cocos was the inspiration for Jurassic Park, but who knows. Thanks for checking out our site!

    1. Hi Zeina,
      As far as we know bus routes are not convenient at all from Samara to Montezuma. You would have to go to Nicoya, then go all the way to Puntarenas, catch the ferry, and then another bus to Montezuma. It would take all day. So we would probably recommend a shared shuttle. We know a very reputable company that makes this trip for about $50/pp. We will email you details in case you would like to book it.

  4. Thanks for your great suggestions for Montezuma, Jenn and Matt. You have become our go-to in planning Costa Rica travel during our year living in Monteverde. Your suggestion of hiking out to Playa Grande was just perfect–in fact we did this with our kids two days in a row. We ended up staying at Hotel El Tajalin, which worked out really well for us–exceptionally clean rooms and a nice rooftop eating area and kitchen, which helped us keep costs down. Thanks for your wonderful tips!

    1. Great trip report, Katie! Glad our tips were useful and you had a good visit to Montezuma. The hike out to Playa Grande is nice. I think we tried to stay at Hotel El Tajalin once but it was full. Good to know you enjoyed your time there. Thanks for your comment.

  5. Hi,
    Thanks for a great website. Lot’s of great ideas and tips for planning our trip.
    What way would be the best to go from Monteverde to Montezuma? The ferry or driving around? Would one week be enough to go down there and drive our way back up to Liberia airport, or are we better off staying closer, like Samara? We do like the more secluded areas.

    1. Hi Caroline, You could do either but I think driving around will be a little faster. You will take Route 606 to 1 to 18 to 21 all the way down the peninsula. The roads don’t get bad (after Monteverde) until the latter part of your time on 21 so it’s not that bad. It’s a pretty drive too.

      I think a week is doable for those destinations and wouldn’t change anything if you prefer secluded. Samara doesn’t have that same off-the-beaten-path feel.

  6. Great website and thank you for the suggestions. We have a rental car without 4×4. Is it possible to drive from Samara to Montezuma down 21 without 4×4?

    1. Hi Tim, It is probably possible to do the drive without 4×4, but we don’t recommend it. Parts of Route 21 are rough dirt, with some steeper sections and loose gravel. You can read our Road Conditions post, which covers Route 21, for more details.

  7. Great overview about staying in Montezuma! Very helpful – thanks!

    We are arriving in San Jose 13 March. We are heading to Montezuma, but are having difficulty figuring out how best to get to Jaco to catch our water taxi for 10am. We are staying in downtown San Jose and are on a tight budget. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

    Also, our hotel isn’t on your list…Cabinas Mar y Cielo. Any feedback?

  8. Hi. We are coming to Costa Rica in a few weeks for a family vacation and will be staying a few nights in Montezuma. We want to take a snorkel tour to Tortuga Island. Who would you recommend? I’ve read good reviews about Zuma Tours and Pura Vida. Thanks!

      1. Hi! We’re staying in Puntarenas but planning on making a day trip to Isla Tortuga + Montezuma – is this possible to do in a day? Thinking beach/snorkeling/ziplining in Tortuga, then exploring Montezuma/grabbing food. What transport companies would you suggest after we take the ferry over from Puntarenas? (We could also make a 2nd trip for the day if it’s too much as the ferry seems inexpensive?)
        Thanks!

        H

        1. Hi Heather, It would be too much to try to do both in one day and we don’t think it’s possible anyway. There are a couple of options for Isla Tortuga tours, but for leaving from Puntarenas, your best bet would be to take the big boat. This is a full-day tour and they bring you back to Puntarenas after. If you want to check out Montezuma, you could go another day via the Puntarenas-Paquera ferry. Logistically, you would need to bring a rental car across since you will have to drive from the ferry dock to Montezuma. You would need to take a fairly early morning ferry in order to have time to enjoy Montezuma and still catch an afternoon ferry. Hope that helps! Let us know if you would like help booking the Isla Tortuga tour.

      2. Hi Jenn and Matt. Could you please send me that information too? We’ll be spending 2 months in Montezuma next winter and want to do some snorkelling. Will check out Monteverde and Manuel Antonio. Two places we have not yet been to in Costa Rica. many thanks.

  9. Hi Jenn and Matt. We are visiting Costa Rica in June for the second time. We had an excellent first trip, visiting La Fortuna/Arenal and Manuel Antonio. We are planning this second trip around a wedding in Jaco. We will be in Costa Rica for 11 nights. We were thinking about Montezuma vs Santa Teresa. Any preference for a family of four, with small children. We like the small town feel, and typically avoid large developments. Would squeezing Monteverde be too much before heading to the coast? Love the website!

    1. Hi Jake, Either Montezuma or Santa Teresa would be good, but we would give a slight edge to Montezuma because the vibe is a little more family friendly.

      If you have 11 days, you could fit in some time in Monteverde I think before heading to the coast without it being too rushed. Just be sure to plan on at least 2 nights there, or preferably 3, so that you have enough time to experience the area. Monteverde has a lot to do, especially with kids (see our full article on Monteverde here).

  10. We are hoping to come down for 2 weeks in December/January. We are looking to fly into Liberia since it is cheaper and spend a week near Monteverde and a week near a coast. Which one do you recommend for a less touristy feel with lots of wildlife? Which coast? Should we rent a car or do public transportation? We dont want to travel around too much but would like 2 or three options.

    1. Hi Monica, If you are flying into Liberia, the Caribbean Coast is probably too far. For a less touristy feel on the Pacific side with a lot of wildlife, your best bet would be Samara or Montezuma. Even better would be the Costa Ballena (Dominical, Uvita) because it has lush rainforest and a ton of wildlife, but it’s a long drive to LIR (better visited from SJO Airport). Maybe look into flying into one airport and out the other? And renting a car is the best way to experience the country if you’re comfortable driving. The public bus is good and cheap, but it takes a long time to get around. Shuttles, unless you do private ones, leave on a set schedule and take a while too.

  11. Hello! My family and I are traveling to Costa Rica in the second week of August. We are trying to decide between Montezeuma (my personal choice), Puerto Viejo, and Manuel Antonio. We are concerned about weather and want to make sure we get to do many activities while also spend some downtime in the sun on the beach! I know Puerto Viejo is in its dry season in August, which makes it more preferable but I was wondering your thoughts on the weather in Montezuma and Manuel Antonio? Even though it usually rains at night, does that mean its still overcast in the morning?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Shannon, Any of those places would be fine in August. Although Puerto Viejo is supposed to be in one of its drier months, the weather is really unpredictable there and September and October are actually the markedly drier months (bit August), so don’t pick PV based only on weather. Montezuma and Manuel Antonio are both usually pretty nice in August. Though there are no guarantees, rain is generally in the afternoon or evening. Mornings often start sunny and the clouds build as the day goes on. It varies of course but this is typically how it is. Hope that helps narrow your plans!

      1. We are excited to visit Montezuma next month. For those looking for some jungle experience we are also spending time here. treehouseshotelcostarica.com I have been there before and it is also incredible.

  12. Hi! We are visiting Montezuma in January for 10 days and have our accommodations booked! We plan to fly from SJO to Tambor. Can you rent a car/4×4 at the Tambor airport? Also, can you recommend an airline? Thanks,
    Sandy & Barb
    Nova Scotia

    1. Hi Sandy, Budget is in Playa Tambor. It’s a few kilometers away but they will come pick you up at the airport. For airlines, we usually fly Nature Air, but Sansa is good too. Both are very reputable. Have a great trip!

      1. Thanks for your reply 🙂 After reading as much of your site as possible, we have decided to take a taxi from Tambor to our lodging, and rent an ATV in Montezuma for our stay. Thank you for providing a wealth of information, it is much appreciated and useful! We will be in touch with more questions I am sure. Take care.
        Sandy & Barb

  13. Hello,

    I am going to be staying in Montezuma for 10 days at the end of December, and I have a question regarding cash. I have heard that there is only one ATM in town and can often run out of money, since I will be staying in this town for a long duration, what do you recommend that I bring for cash? Of course, I would like to have as little cash on me at once as possible but I would hate to be without cash if this is what a lot of restaurants and shops take.

    1. Hi Jackie, A lot of the restaurants in Montezuma will take credit cards so use what whenever possible. We would bring a little extra cash because the ATM can run out and you will be visiting during a busy time of year. Maybe $300-400 or so for 10 days? You could try to book any activities you want to do in advance so that you won’t need cash for those and can save it for food and small purchases. Hope that helps!

  14. I’m so excited to read all
    Of your information! We are looking to travel end of March and fly in to SJO. We are a family of 5 and it seems like Montezuma May be our destination. We want to just chill out for a week. Could we do SJO to the ferry to near Montezuma? It seems we could stay happy for a week there and stay busy? Thank you!

  15. Hi,
    I was wondering if taxis are usually available at night in Montezuma, and when does service typically end? Also is there a public bus system for getting around? My friend and I are staying about a 15 minute walk away, but would prefer to take transport home if it’s dark out. Thanks.

    1. Hi Josiane, There should be a few taxis around, so when you see one, get their card/phone number so that you can call them to pick you up. The ones around town are most likely to stop running later at night. In rural areas like Montezuma, you will also find pirate taxis. These guys are unlicensed so use your best judgment. We have had to use them before in really small towns when no one else was around. Basically the staff at the bar/restaurant calls one for you. It might be their relative or friend. Obviously use your best judgement and try to get a regular taxi first. Your hotel/vacation rental contact could have a taxi driver’s number too.

  16. Hi!
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experiences! Me and a friend are spending a few nights in Montezuma before heading back to Sweden. What is the easiest way to get back to the airport in San Jose? We are planning to take some kind of shuttle. Would it be possible to leave on a saturday morning and arrive in time for a flight that departs 5 pm? Do you recommend any reliable shuttle service?

    Regards
    Lisa

    1. Hi Lisa, You can either take a shared or private shuttle. We know of a reliable shared shuttle company that does the trip from Montezuma to SJO at 7:00 am daily for around $55 per person. They take you across on the ferry and then another shuttle meets you on the other side to take you the rest of the way. Let us know if you would like help making the arrangements, we don’t charge extra to do this. Private shuttles are another option. These would be for just the two of you and it includes an hour or so for stops along the way. Pick up time is custom and the cost is around $300.

  17. Hi Jenn & Matt! My friends and I are loving your blog – it’s been a big part of planning our trip to Costa Rica. We were wondering if you had any advice about the drive to Montezuma? We will be driving from Liberia airport to Montezuma – a bit worried about the drive down, especially route 160. Do you think it’s that bad or worth taking the extra time to drive down the inter American highway to take the ferry across to Paquera?

    1. Hi Holly, From Liberia, you won’t want to take the ferry as it’s way out of the way. You will take Route 21 the whole way down (Google Maps is now calling Route 160, Route 21 down on the Southern Nicoya Peninsula). Here’s a map. This is all paved until around Jicaral, then it turns to some stretches of pavement and others remain rough dirt. You can read our Road Conditions post for more info- jump to the Route 160 section. Overall, though, it’s not a bad drive as long as you have 4×4 and don’t try to do it in the dark.

  18. Hi!
    Me and my boyfriend are planning on coming to montezuma in september for a week, we are a bit concerned about the weather as i have heard this is the rainy season.

    were thinking about renting a car, are there any great day trips near by that we could do? we both love the outdoors and animals, hes also hoping to do some fishing there as well!

    thanks!

    Tristyn

    1. Hi Tristyn, Yes, September is the rainy season but hopefully it won’t be that bad for you. Montezuma is located in one of the drier areas of the country so that is good.

      Montezuma is fairly isolated due to rough roads, which make it take a while to get very far. The activities we give in this post provides some ideas though- going down to Cobano, hiking in Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve, and you could also visit Santa Teresa. Fishing could probably be arranged with one of the local boats in town too.

  19. Hey
    Do you have a tour company your recommend for isla tortuga?
    Looking for something quieter and more low key.
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Alexandra, Yes, we recommend a local operator out of Montezuma. They have smaller boats so the experience is more low key than the big catamarans/party boats that leave from Puntarenas/San Jose. We’ll email you now with information about booking a tour.

      1. Jenn and Matt, please may I also have your recommend on the Isla Tortuga and snorkeling trip. Thanks in advance and for your blog.

    1. Hi Rhona, There’s public school of course. For private, most of the options are in San Jose and the Central Valley. But some of the beach towns that are popular with expats have them too. We don’t know much about it but you could take a look at Futuro Verde near Cobano and Montezuma.

  20. Good morning! We will be staying in Manuel Antonio. What form of transportation do you recommend in order to get to Montezuma? We will be traveling with 2 children ages 9 and 11. Is the transportation expensive?

    Can we get to Arenal area from Montezuma? How long does that take? Is this expensive as well?

    Thanks!!

    Carlos

    1. Hi Carlos, You could take a shared shuttle from Manuel Antonio to Montezuma- this would be a shuttle van ride for part of the way and then a fun boat taxi from Jaco/Herradura to Montezuma. This is around $65/adult and $55/child. Private shuttles are an option but they are quite expensive for this trip. You could also rent a car (see our rental car discount).

      For Montezuma to Arenal, a shared shuttle is also an option. This is around $54/adult and $27/child. The trip is 7 hours. Again, private shuttles are an option here, but the cost is about $350. Let us know if you’d like help with any of these transportation bookings. We’re a travel agency and work with several reliable companies.

  21. Hi! Me and my boyfriend are planning on traveling to costa rica either in october or november, firstly is this good weather for those months? 25 degrees?

    I know this is probably an annoying question, but I have my heart set on costa rica as it is not only beautiful beaches but rainforests, horse riding, white water rafting, trekking etc.. it has it all! but i am so unbelievably lost and clueless as to where to start? from you expert opinion, where are the best towns for first timers that will have a little bit of everything I just mentioned within a reasonable distance? its alright if its a bit touristy, but then some other recommendations for a holiday that really has it all! e.g. specific national parks, volcanos, caves or islands to explore / visit.

    I would really really appreciate any advice u have! thanks so much!!

    1. Hi Andrea, October/early November is the height of rainy season so it will rain most days. Our Weather post has detailed information so check that out.

      For the best places to go, most of the popular destinations have what you are looking for (rainforest, horseback riding, rafting, trekking, etc.). Take a look at our Itineraries page or you could read our Destinations Summary Guide to see short descriptions about the different towns. Our book Top 10 Costa Rica Itineraries has more itineraries, including some off-the-beaten path ones. But keep in mind that during that time of year, destinations that are usually touristy will not be be busy and vice-versa. You may not want to go to some of the really small towns, which won’t have a lot going on. Hope that gives you some direction!

  22. Hello! My husband and I and our 2 kids (6 & 8) are visiting Costa Rica in January. We are in Arenal and then Monteverde our first week. Second week want to go to Montezuma and Manuel Antonio and then fly out of San Jose. Is this too much in our second week? Also, are there shuttles that would go from Monteverde to Montezuma? I like the vibe Montezuma has, from what I read, but am worried it is too difficult to get to from Monteverde (where we won’t have a car).

    1. Hi Elaine, That sounds like a good itinerary for two weeks; we don’t think you’re trying to do too much by fitting in Montezuma and Manuel Antonio in week 2. There is a shared shuttle that goes from Monteverde to Montezuma via the ferry across the Gulf. It’s $54 adults and $27 for kids, so probably the best price. Private shuttles are another option but would be more expensive. We know of a company that makes the trip from Montezuma to Manuel Antonio as well. Let us know if you’d like any help making the arrangements for these. We’re a travel agency and work with several reliable companies. Just reply to this thread if you’re interested and we can send you more information by email.

      1. hi, we are planning on doing the reverse; from montezuma to monteverde; would it be possible to email us details of the shared shuttle / information on organising this- if it goes the opposite direction also?!

  23. I haven’t heard anything about Hotel Los Mangos on this forum. Any reports? It’s been 5 or 6 years since I have visited Montezuma and am considering a trip this fall. Thank you!

  24. Great blog! We are headed to Costa Rica next month (mid August) and starting the trip with three days in Arenal. We are trying to decide whether to head to Montezuma or Manuel Antonio next. Any recommendations? We are interested in doing some snorkeling and I’ve heard that water visibility in Manuel Antonio isn’t great. Thanks!

    1. Hi Erika, Manuel Antonio and Montezuma are both not great for snorkeling, unfortunately. August is tough because it’s rainy season, but for decent snorkeling, you could check out Northern Guanacaste or Cano Island off the coast of Drake Bay.

  25. Hi Jenn and Matt, really love your website/blog. Great information. My family and I are doing a week In Montezuma for my wife and I 25th anniversary and plan on driving down from Liberia Airport. We are staying at the Lunatica Lounge. Are you familiar with this place we are staying at and is there any particular advise you can give us. Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Daniel, It looks like that is a vacation rental. We don’t do site inspections/tours of vacation rentals usually so aren’t familiar with it. Looks gorgeous, though! It’s not a bad drive from LIR to Montezuma. Just be sure to leave early enough so that you’re not driving in the dark. Hope you have a great anniversary trip!

    1. Hi Betty, Montezuma has a small grocery store in town with all the basics. We’d recommend bringing sunscreen with you as prices in Costa Rica are usually around double the price. Our Packing post has some more ideas on what to bring.

  26. Hi guys! Just booked 6 nights at Firefly Beach House next to Ylang Ylang in December. We’d like to go scuba diving one day at Isla Tortuga. Can you recommend any good operators? We would likely want to hang out in a small beach cove or something like that on the island after diving.

    Also, are there horseback rides in or around Montezuma? Or do you recommend doing this in Arenal or Monteverde instead?

    1. Hi Lyndsay, We don’t know of any companies doing scuba diving at Isla Tortuga from Montezuma. There are good snorkel tours but no dive tours, unfortunately.

      You can probably find someone to take you horseback riding, but we’re not sure how well cared for the horses will be. It’s probably better to do a tour in Arenal. We work with a great operator there with well-trained, well-cared for horses. Let us know if you’d like any help making the arrangements and we can send you more info by email. Thanks!

  27. Jenn and Matt. Great info on Montezuma. Will look forward to hearing back from you.

    Initially planning on two weeks mid Jan 2019. First visit is to check out the areas and look at the possibility of leasing/renting long term in 2020. I retire this year and need to get away from the horrific Minneapolis winters.
    All the best to both of you,
    David.

    1. Hi David, Congrats on your upcoming retirement! Lots of retirees here in Costa Rica. Not sure if you have seen them but we do have some posts on moving to Costa Rica, planning your research trip, etc. They’re in our Life in Costa Rica section. Best of luck with your visit and finding a place to settle down!

  28. Hi!
    My daughter and I will soon be leaving for Costa Rica as volunteers. We look so much forward to leave northern Sweden at the time of severe cold and eternal darkness(December). We are travelling with an agency, but there are a few questions;
    Are there any poisonous animals/insects in the Montezuma area, and how do we protect ourselves?
    We are quite used to mosquitoes, but I think our swedish repellent is to weak, is the ones you recommend possible to buy in the Montezuma area?
    Can you drink the tapwater?
    I really like your website, it makes me really happy to have chosen Costa Rica for this year´s volunteering.

    Elisabet

    1. Hi Elisabet, All of Costa Rica, including Montezuma, has some poisonous insects and snakes, but the average visitor will not encounter them so don’t worry. Just take the normal precautions like wearing closed toe shoes when hiking and you will be fine. It’s also a good idea to use a flashlight at night so you don’t step on anything by accident if walking in a dark area. For repellent, yes, you can find some options in Montezuma. The small grocery stores will sell DEET, but it will be a little expensive since it’s such a small town. It’s generally safe to drink the tap water in Montezuma, but if you have a sensitive stomach, you could drink bottled or filtered. Hope that helps!

  29. Dear Jenn and Matt!

    Wow, what a beautiful and well-documented website. My partner and I are planning a two-week trip to Costa Rica in Jan-Feb 2019 and are overwhelmed by all the beauty and adventure that this country has to offer. Creating an itinerary is quite an endeavour! The information on your website is very helpful.

    We would like to include Montezuma but not sure how much time to spend there… I understand it’s paradise on earth (but then, this description seems to apply to the entire country, haha).

    We will land on Jan 26th at Juan Santamaria airport and fly back home on Feb 9th. Between the 3rd and the 8th of Feb we will be in the Dominical area, getting some well-deserved rest in a retreat.

    That leaves us with approx. 7 days to explore the rest of the country.

    What should we include as first-time visitors? Any recommendation into how we can make this a chill but also exciting vacation would be highly recommended.

    Forgot to mention: we will rent a car, but do not want to drive too much. It’s more for convenience and flexibility.

    Many thanks!

    Miruna

    1. Hi Miruna, If you don’t want to drive too much, a good route may be SJO to Montezuma to either Jaco or Manuel Antonio to Dominical. Jaco and Manuel Antonio are on the way to Dominical and these areas are different enough from Montezuma and Dominical that you’ll get a different sense of the country from visiting them. Hope that helps!

  30. My wife and I will be spending nights in an airbnb in Montezuma and on November 29th, we’ll travel to Santa Teresa, likely by rental car, How do you think the roads will be? I know there’s a more direct road, that could be more problematic to travel…

  31. Hi Jenn and Matt,

    I really appreciate all the information provided on here! I am trying to decide on staying either in Montezuma or Santa Teresa. Either way, we plan to explore both, but struggling on deciding the best headquarters for our stay between the 2 locations. Do you have any insight or preference between the 2? We are a family of 4 with a teenager and a 5 year old. We will be looking for more of an apartment/cabina type accommodations. We do plan on exploring quite a bit while making time for relaxation too. My husband really appreciates convenience.

    Thank you!
    Crystal

    1. Hi Crystal, For families, we prefer the vibe in Montezuma over Santa Teresa, which tends to attract mostly young people and has more of a party scene. But you will still enjoy visiting ST on day trips. Montezuma has a lot of good options for apartment-style places too.

  32. Hello Jen and Matt-
    I am planning a trip with my 12 yr old son to Costa Rica end of March/beginning of April. Your website has been so helpful. We fly in to Liberia (land around noon), stay 8 nights and flying out the following Sat. later afternoon. We are planning on spending time in Montezuma. However, I’m wondering if splitting the trip between the Arenal area and Montezuma is doable and what is the easiest way with flying in and out of Liberia OR if we should just spend all our time in Montezuma. We are looking for a good mix adventure – hiking/waterfalls, zip lining, white water rafting with some quality beach time- snorkeling and a surf lesson. Also do you recommended renting a car? I’m a bit hesitant. Thanks! Sarah

    1. Hi Sarah, To get in those adventure activities, you would want to spend some time in La Fortuna so we’d split it between those 2 destinations. It’s doable in 8 days. To get around, you could either rent a car, which we do recommend as long as you’re comfortable driving, or you could take a shuttle. A private shuttle would get you there the fastest – see our article about Taking Shuttles in Costa Rica for more information.

  33. Driving to Montezuma to avoid ferry or water taxi. I have a daughter who easily gets seasick. Read mixed reviews about rough waters. Yet, mixed reviews about driving from SJO or LIR to Montezuma. You didn’t make it seem as daunting as others. We don’t mind the scenic route, an overnight stop on our way, but want it to be worthwhile and safe (family of 4 adults from US). Can you comment and include realistic travel times.

    1. Hi Kelly, The only part of the drive that is bad is the last portion once you get on the Nicoya Peninsula. Parts of Route 21 after Jicaral are dirt, but it’s not bad in a 4×4 SUV with higher clearance. It’s around 4.5 hours driving from LIR Airport and 6 hours from SJO Airport if you don’t take the ferry. Better to fly into Liberia if you can.

      1. Hello guys! I’m coming to Costa Rica with my little son for the winter. I was wondering if Montezuma is safe and good place for family with kids? Or you can reccomend another place to live?And what is the local price in Montezuma for accommodations? Thanks in advance!

        1. Hi Elena, Yes, Montezuma is pretty safe and good for families. There are a decent number of expat families living in and around town. We’re not sure of the price for rentals specifically in Montezuma because we’ve never looked, but rentals near the coast in Costa Rica range from $400-$1500+. You can probably find something small, but nice, for between $600-800/month. Hope that helps. Best of luck with your plans!

  34. Hi! great site! My wife and I have twin 9yo’s and are looking to to chill and learn to surf. We’re looking at Peaks & Swells that caters to this.

    Is Montezuma a safe place these days (i.e. kidnappings, etc)? That’s my biggest concern as we were in Jaco 10yrs ago and were told to be very careful around town and walking to a grocery store.

    Do you think we would have to drive/hike to playa grande or elsewhere for surfing lessons?

    1. Hi James, Yes, we’d consider Montezuma a very safe destination. It’s a quiet town so we don’t think you have too much to worry about. We’ve never heard of problems with kidnappings. FYI – Jaco has gotten a lot safer too. We live in the area and don’t worry at all about walking around town during the day. Late at night, the scene can be a little different, but the day time is just fine. Here’s a link to our Safety post with some tips.

      For learning to surf, you should be fine just staying in the Montezuma area and shouldn’t need to go elsewhere.

  35. Hi My husband and I are thinking of visiting Montezuma for 5 nights before travelling on to Manuel Antonio, we’ve never been to Costa Rica before and would like advise.We are in our late 50s, love Kayaking, fishing, horse riding and bird watching, is Montezuma a good choice for us or would you recommend another area in Costa Rica
    Tracey and Keith

    1. Hi Tracey, It sounds like Montezuma would be a good fit for you both. The main takeaway about Montezuma is that it’s a small beach town that’s off-the-beaten path, so if you’re looking for that type of experience, we’d go for it. It will balance with Manuel Antonio nicely, since that is a busier destination.

  36. Re: Montezuma area.
    Hi, So grateful for info and suggestions. We are an elder retired couple looking to stay in Montezuma 2 nights & 3 days early February 2020. We enjoy cultural activities and learning about indigenous communities. We considered staying at Yang Ylang Resort but typically like staying “in town” areas. What do you know about El Sano Banano? And what would it mean in the description that it is it is in front of park? Other suggestions?
    The only other plan we have is to do Isla Tortuga. Thanks!

    1. Hi Raymond, Ylang Ylang is a great option and it’s only a short walk to town so still not too far out. El Sano Banano is owned by Ylang Ylang and is right in town. Not sure what in front of the park means, but it’s in the center of town near the beach. Let us know if you need any help arranging a trip to Isla Tortuga. We work with a great operator there and would be happy to help set you up.

  37. Hi Jenn and Matt,

    Thanks for the thorough site—super helpful!

    My fiancé and I are in Montezuma and have a couple questions:

    – What is the best way to tackle Cabo Blanco? We’d like to get there and do a hike and maybe swim at the beach after. We are trying to keep it cheap, so we don’t want a tour guide or anything.

    – Is the tap water safe to drink? I’d read it’s a little more suspect in beach towns, and when we were in Santa Teresa, they suggested we filter it or purchase bottled water. When we asked in Montezuma, they said it was fine… Your suggestion?

    – Next stop is Quepos… is the best way to get there taking the ferry from Paquera to Puntarenas and then as bus to Quepos? Or is there a more direct way?

    Any insight is appreciated. Thank you!

    1. Hi Peyton, It sounds like your trip may have already gone by. Sorry we weren’t able to respond to your questions in time. Sometimes it takes us a while because we receive many of them. Hope you had a great visit!

  38. Hi Jenn and Matt,

    My husband and I will be in CR in April with our two kids (13 and 16). We arrive very late Friday night (will stay near/at the airport), and leave very late on Sunday night of the following week, giving us about 8 1/2 days to explore. Our plan is to spend spend 3 nights (2 1/2 days) in Monteverde, and then head to Montezuma for the rest of the vacation (4 full days). We want to zip line and take a horse back riding tour in Montezuma plus cloud forest tour and hanging bridges. In Montezuma we’d like to relax at the beach, surf and snorkel.

    Questions:
    1) Is 4 full days in Montezuma too long?
    2) Do you recommend a place for surf lessons? Is it possible to rent a board to use after the lessons so we can practice on our own.
    3) Is there anyplace to rent beach chairs or umbrellas?
    4) Should we plan to pack picnic lunches for the beach?
    5) Can you give me the name of the snorkel tour to Tortugas that you recommend?
    6) Do know of a good place to go horseback riding in Monteverde?
    7) Are we crazy to skip Arenal? We’re trying to avoid numerous long road trips, but don’t want to miss out either! We want to see a cloud forest before they’re possibly gone!

    Whew! That’s a lot of questions. Thanks for you all your great info. It’s been great!

    1. Hi Kara, We don’t think 4 days is too long to spend in Montezuma. It will give you some time to relax and balance it with those activities you want to do. It’s not crazy to skip Arenal for this trip. If you tried to do all three destinations, you would be more rushed since you only have 8.5 days. For food for the beach, picnic lunches are an option (there is a grocery store in town) or you could get food to go from one of the restaurants. I’m not not sure about renting beach chairs and umbrellas.

      For tours, we work with some excellent operators for surf lessons and the Tortuga Island snorkel tour. We’d be happy to send you more information about this by email or feel free to contact us through our Tour Booking Service page and we can help with the Montezuma tours and for your time in Monteverde. We don’t work with a horseback operator but there is probably someone in town who does them.

  39. Hi There,
    My husband and I and our 4 children (17,15,12,9) are planning on a two week trip to Costa Rica this March. As I’ve never been I am looking for any advice you can give on the best stay for a family trip. Kids are into activities such as surfing, snorkeling, ziplining, hiking, etc. I enjoy the beaches and good restaurants without the area being crazy busy and touristy. Not sure what area or airport to even start with. We are looking at possibly going with an Airb&b but not sure. Any thoughts? Thank you in advance.

    1. Hi Jenn, You should take a look at our Best Beaches for Families post to get a sense of some beach towns that we recommend and what kinds of activities they offer. For airports, you will have the most flexibility if you fly either in and out of San Jose, or into San Jose and out of Liberia (LIR is closer to the beaches of Guanacaste/the Northern Pacific). We usually recommend hotels for first timers because you have some on-the-ground support for last minute questions and help, but Airbnbs can be fine if you are more independent travelers.

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